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Kraan - Kraan CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.02 | 117 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars KRAAN was a product of four high school kids from Ulm, Germany getting together to share their love of free jazz jams in the vein of Pharaoh Sanders and early Frank Zappa's fusion era. They began playing casually all the way back in 1967 but the emergence of the Krautrock scene ushered in by pioneers such as Amon Duul and the second band of the same name gave them the drive to take their musical passions and develop into more refined musical expressions. The quartet officially formed in 1970 Berlin with the initial moniker Firma KRAAN but changed their name before their very first live gig. Taking a cue from the communes of such musical collectives as Amon Duul, KRAAN (created as a nonsensical name that actually means 'faucet' in Dutch) left the city and moved to the small town of Wintrup to set up their very own musician's commune collective, only this one was limited to the four members: Peter Wolbrandt (guitar, vocals), Hellmut Hattler (bass), Johannes Pappert (alto sax) and Jan Fride on drums and percussion.

By avoiding the drudgery of the daily gerbil wheel grind of having to work every day, the members spent a year forging their new craft and emerged with their highly influential eponymously titled debut album that was released in 1972 to critical acclaim. Despite all the musical development, the album was actually recorded in a three day recording and mixing session in Munich. Taking a cue from not only the jazz influences of 60s avant-garde heroes, this debut album is also steeped in lysergic 60s psychedelia as well as early 70s heavy progressive rock with a Led Zeppelin type of gusto seasoned with symphonic prog style time signature workouts and orchestrated ambience. Like almost all of the diverse bands that existed in the Krautrock continuum, KRAAN displays an album's worth of psychedelic ethereal jamming sessions that flex their musical muscle with one track "Head" swallowing up half of the album's run at an 18 minute and 36 second playing time.

The opening track "Sarah's Ritt Durch Den Schwarzwald" is a basic summary of all the elements that made the band. Electronic hypnosis inducing electronica, heavy time signature rich guitar riffs, groovy Amon Duul II inspired bass lines and Arab influenced percussive fortifications around the steady more traditional rock drumming styles. All of which convene to make a veritably brilliant Krautrock listening experience. It also displays one of the weaknesses of the overall KRAAN sound and that is the weak vocal abilities of Peter Wolbrandt. Luckily most of the album's run is instrumental but i have to admit that a more refined vocalist could have allowed the music to flow into higher dimensions. Second track "M.C. Escher" focuses more on the jazz-fusion elements which allows Johannes Pappert's alto sax runs to take the lead and steer the musical development although the session keyboard contributions of Rumi offer a veritable 60s psychedelic experience.

Third track "Kraan Arabia" shows a convergent evolutionary path with fellow Krautrockers Agitation Free with Middle Eastern influences dominating the soundscape in the form of frenetic percussive conga attacks that provide a strong rhythmic backdrop to the somewhat funkified bass lines that portend the future development of the band on future releases. The rest of the band however exists on separate planes of reality in the beginning with slow and sultry sax lines, heavy rock inspired guitar riffs that gradually succumb to the gravitational force of the dominate Arab inspired theme with only the funky bass lines finding untethered independence which more often than not captures the guitar like a dependent satellite as the sax sounds more like trip to the Casbah during a salamiyyah flute performance. The track also exhibits KRAAN as one of the more energized outfits in the Krautrock movement with emphasis placed on tight rowdy compositions that tamp down the ethereal psychedelic aspects.

The second side of the original vinyl LP was almost completely consumed by the almost nineteen minute track "Head" followed by a deescalating mellow closer in the form of "Sara Auf Der Gansewies" (of which the last word seems to not exist in any German dictionaries i can find.) "Head" as the title connotes is the more surreal and "heady" track that connects the band more to the trippy side of the Krautrock scene however even in the beginning it's clear that this is at no expense of the progressive rock oriented workouts with guitar and bass runs riddled with time signature deviations accompanied by galloping fast tempos and rock oriented tones and timbres. As with many behemoth tracks of the prog universe, "Head" consists of many suites and passages with moods transmogrifying into another with no looking back. While the track begins as a vocal oriented rocker sounding typical of an early 70s psych turned band introspection, it slowly wends and winds into more experimental instrumental territory with guitars becoming more freaky, percussion becoming more energetic and an extended free form jam into infinity. This is a track filled with both technical prowess as well as dreamy detachment but overall the heavy rock aspects never stray far. Rumi's keys makes a significant psychedelic reprise.

Right from the start, KRAAN emerged as one of the more popular representations of Germany's unique strand of progressive rock and were known for creating exuberantly brilliant live performances much in the vein of fellow countrymen Embryo whose emphasis on tight instrumental interplay and sophisticated compositions with elements of contemporary popular rock struck the right chord with the public. The debut album by KRAAN is probably the best example of their career for perfectly stratifying the many layers of musical elements that went into their overall sound. Like many of the prog acts of the day, despite critical acclaim, their talents didn't exactly result in instant financial success and the band would tamp down their ambitiousness in favor of a slightly more accessible sound that ramped up the funk groove aspects as heard starting on their second album "Wintrup." While not the most surreal of the Krautrock lot, KRAAN still managed to create an alternative musical reality despite not sacrificing their technical musical chops. Album number one is definitely the starting point to explore the band's sound in order to ascertain a clear context of their ensuing releases.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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